The Victoria Royals entered Friday’s game at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the 2-9 Kelowna Rockets with a league-leading record of 8-1, but you wouldn’t know it by the outcome of the game. The Rockets who carry veteran offensive talent in their line-up showed up ready to change the dynamics; they scored seven consecutive goals between 11:03 of the second period and 16:06 of the third to win 8-2.
“They did the little things a little better. They got in front of our goaltender a little more and I thought we made it a little too easy on them,” said defenceman Ralph Jarratt. “At the end of the day, we play them tomorrow. That’s a good thing about the Island; you have back-to-back games, so we are just going to get focussed for tomorrow.”
Seventeen-year-old Nolan Foote opened the scoring for the Rockets with a goal at 6:37 of the first period, scoring on 16-year-old rookie goaltender Brock Gould, who got his second start in two games. It was the first of two goals for Foote, as he scored his fifth and sixth of the season.
Gould had appeared to be in good position, but the one-timed powerplay marker bounced off of his glove into the back of the net – it was a hard shot.
The Royals were coming off of a 5-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos Wednesday night, while Kelowna hadn’t played since Sunday where they lost at home to the 4-and-4 Tri-City Americans by the score of 5-4.
It was a curious move to scratch an apparently healthy Griffin Outhouse. It is the second straight game that he did not play. Gould was coming off of a 12-shot win against the Broncos. He looked more confident to start the game on Friday.
Asked if Outhouse will play again Saturday night, Coach Dan Price said, “undecided.” Asked why, he said, “He needs a rest.”
The two best Royals chances of the first period came in the final minute of play as both Tanner Sidaway on a breakaway and Dante Hannoun with a nifty move down low, shot, but Roman Basran had the hot hand and made consecutive, flashy glove-hand saves.
Gould made his first WHL penalty shot save off of Leif Mattson at 11:40 of the first period. He smartly outwaited the Rockets player, who ended up with little space and fired the puck at Gould’s left leg pad. Gould made several other point-blank saves throughout the night.
A game that had little action during the first period came alive in the second.
At 1:44 of the second period J-D Jerome scored his seventh goal of the season. Skating through the deep slot, he was handed a slick, between-the-leg backwards pass from Kaid Oliver. Igor Martynov started the play with a pass out of the corner to the front of the net for Oliver.
Dino Kambeitz threw a check in the defensive end, sending Leif Mattson to the ice. Mattson got up and the two dropped the gloves for an even fight, both landing punches – it ended in a draw, but the fight brought emotion into the game.
A minute later, at 10:47, Dante Hannoun picked up the puck at centre, broke around a Rockets defender and shot high for the Royals’ second goal. In the process he ran directly into Basran and mowed him over.
Then the Rockets scored seven consecutive goals. Lassi Thomson scored two, Erik Gardiner got his first of the season, Kaeden Korczak had his second and Dalton Wilton picked up his third. Thompson scored the winner at 12:18 of the second.
Gould was pulled at 51 seconds of the third period and made way for Joel Grzybowksi who played one game for the Royals last season and six for the Saskatoon Blades. The 19-year-old has spent most of the past three seasons playing Junior A for the Battlefords North Stars of the SJHL.
Asked if perhaps the Royals underestimated the Rockets and their 2-9 record, Price answered the question with a question, “let me ask you, do you think we played hard? The answer is no we did not underestimate them; we played hard. We have a ton of respect for Kelowna, they played very hard. We did get into penalty trouble, but Kelowna cashed in on their chances. It was in no way an underestimation of our opponent.”
The Rockets went 4/6 on the man advantage, the Royals were 0/6.
The Royals outshot the Rockets 39-33.
The teams face-off at 7:05 pm Saturday for the second in their two-game set.